Summer of Nuun: Testing the Nuun Electrolytes hydration supplement

Sometimes I get lucky. A few months back, I found out I was a winner. A winner of stuff!

Race Advisors – a cool outfit that publishes reviews of races from all over – does a weekly giveaway to its social media followers, and my name turned up. What I got: A package of Nuun Electrolytes, made by a company that specializes in performance nutrition you need without all the sugar and other “extra” stuff that comes with so many other sports drinks and supplements.

I’ve heard of Nuun before. They’re all over the place on all things running. Part of the deal were four sleeves of tablets that I was free to use. At the time, summer was just getting ready to start, so this was a great time to do some experimenting.

WHAT IS IT?

Technically, each tablet of Nuun Electrolytes is designed to supplement 16 ounces of water with sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. When you work out, you sweat a lot. And that means more than losing just water. Certain nutrients are also lost, minerals that are essential to proper body function, especially during exercise.

But how does it work? Think of this visual: Have you ever used Alka-Seltzer? It works just like that. You take a glass/bottle of water, snag a Nuun tablet, and drop it in. It dissolves in effervescent fashion, and in about a minute, presto! You have an electrolyte-infused drink to replenish your body. It’s got 10 calories a pop, and a remarkably short ingredients list.

My guess is you can use this in one of two ways: Prepare the drink beforehand and bring a bottle of it with you as you run (for longer runs) or use it as a recovery tool after a hard workout.

HOW DID IT DO?

Over the summer, my miles drop. It’s freakin’ hot in Tulsa, so there aren’t many long runs happening for me. But when I run, I work hard and sweat a lot. If I’m not hydrated perfectly, those wonderful dehydration headaches appear, and I’m lethargic as can be, even if I down a bunch of water when I’m done. So my test was simple: Would Nuun help me avoid both?

I burned through a few tubes of Nuun tablets over the course of three hot months of running. So this isn’t a “try it a couple of times and review it” sort of test. I know I’m only one guy, but I think the duration of usage should count for something.

I’m also what might be called a “high-demand” person when it comes to post-workout recovery. I sweat buckets, even in mild temps, so that means I’m losing a lot of water and electrolytes at every workout.

The taste takes a little getting used to. It’s not sugar-sweet like a lot of popular sports drinks. My advice: Let the tablets dissolve for a minute, then drink. It goes down pretty good then.

But I also think it did its job. Sixteen ounces of a Nuun-infused drink definitely helped curb those headaches. And yeah, I did notice that the post-workout sluggishness that usually happens after a super-heated 90-minute workout was noticeably blunted. So that’s a win-win.

A further test would include taking a water bottle with Nuun in it, but I didn’t go that far. However, I do have numerous long runs planned in the coming weeks, and maybe that will be a good time to test it further.

But the bottom line is Nuun advertises that it not only helps you hydrate, but replenishes valuable minerals the body needs to keep working and recover more quickly. So far, so good. It seems to have done the job for me.

Price: A sleeve of 10 tablets is $7.

Disclaimer: Nuun and Race Advisors furnished me with four sleeves of tablets at no cost to me, and with no obligation of review or promotion.

Bob Doucette

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Gear review: Keeping cool with the Hydro Flask

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In the summer months, one of the big needs for people who are active in the outdoors is water. But a major problem is keeping that water cold.

Conversely, the icy blow of winter conditions can be softened by a hot drink.

But as we’ve all experienced, the conditions often make those cool/hot drinks rather tepid.

Enter Hydro Flask. The maker of insulated metallic water bottles promises to keep the cold nice and icy and keep the hot stuff steaming.

We’re in prime hot weather conditions right now, so this is a great time of year to put the Hydro Flask to the test.

The testing conditions: Bright, hot and humid weather on a 90-minute trail run. Starting temps were 93 degrees, and by the time I got done, they’d risen to 95.

The goal: To see how well as 12-ounce Hydro Flask would keep my ice water cold.

Observations: A metal flask is going to be heavier than plastic, but not so much as to be cumbersome. It fit perfectly in my Nathan Triangle hydration pack. Being a 12-ouncer, it was a bit small for a 90-minute workout, but no worries — they make many, many sizes to suit a lot of different needs.

flask2

How it performed: In a word, flawlessly. I sipped on my water throughout the run, trying to conserve what I had. By the time I finished, there was nothing left but ice cubes. Yes, after 90 minutes in mid-90s temperatures, the Hydro Flask kept itself cold enough inside to keep the ice cubes intact. Hydro Flask advertises that its double-wall insulated stainless steel construction can keep drinks cold for 24 hours. What I can tell you is that it was more than up to the task for my run.

The price is decent: about $20 for the 12-ounce bottle.

Some other features: It’s BPA-free and has a lifetime warranty.

In the future, I’ll test its abilities to keep hot drinks hot. But round one is a success. You can look at Hydro Flask products at hydroflask.com.

Note: The Hydro Flask was part of a box of complimentary products furnished to me by Cairn, a monthly subscription company that sends subscribers boxes of gear to try out for themselves. For more information about Cairn, go to getcairn.com or follow Cairn on Twitter @getCairn.

Bob Doucette

Fitness: 5 tips for training in the heat

This guy will make your outdoor training a little tougher in the summer. (Wikimedia Commons photo)

This guy will make your outdoor training a little tougher in the summer. (Wikimedia Commons photo)

When I looked at the forecast, all I saw was “hot.”

We’ve had a pretty mild summer thus far in Oklahoma, way different from the past two years where we spent the better part of the season above 100 degrees, topping out at 114 (my hottest run was at 111). Not so much this year. Until this week.

Wednesday’s high: 102. The dog days are here, and will be for at least another 8 weeks.

From a training perspective, I look at it two ways: dread it or embrace the challenge.

I’m two weeks in to marathon training, and there is no getting away from logging more and more miles outside. I’m also a night shift worker, so those pre-dawn runs are out. That means tackling my training at, well, less than optimal times.

But I also believe that training in harsh conditions can give you an extra gear of toughness that training in favorable conditions cannot. So I planned out my post-lift run (a mere 5 miles) and looked forward to staring down the 97-degree temperature reading at the time. I will not be stopped!

The first half of the run went fine. The back half was tough. Even a little brutal. But it got done.

It did get me to thinking of a few things I’ve learned about training in the heat. So for what it’s worth, here goes:

1. Hydrate. A lot. Before you go to bed, drink some water. When you get up, drink some more. And throughout the day running up to your workout, be drinking more water. Bring some with you (hand-held water bottle, hip belt or hydration pack) or be sure your route has drinking fountains available. Don’t wait till you crash to stop for a water break. Heat-related illnesses and dehydration are no joke. Is a gallon a day excessive? Not if it’s summer and you’re outside training.

2. Shade your face. A ball cap will help you keep a little shade on your face and direct sun off your head. If it’s a moisture-wicking cap, it will help you stay cool.

3. If you can, pick routes with trees. I love trail running, and many of my trails are in wooded areas. You’ll lose the breeze in the woods, but the shade will help keep you cooler.

4. Pace yourself. Your body will not be able to maintain the same intensity at 98 degrees as it does at 78 degrees. But you will still be working hard, and that’s what you’re going for — putting in some hard work. Which leads me to the next point…

5. Watch your heart rate. Whether it’s just listening to your body or wearing a heart-rate monitor, those beats-per-minute will be very telling in terms of how hard your body is working. In the winter, you burn more calories because your body is trying hard to keep your core temperature up. But in the summer, it’s fighting — and losing — the battle to keep you cool. If your pulse is pounding in your temples at 180 bpm or more, maybe it’s time to slow down and walk a couple of blocks. No shame in that.

Those are a few ideas from me. What about you? Share your hot-weather training tips in the comments. I’d love to get some input.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

Hot-weather training: Running with a hydration pack

Would this hydration pack be a livesaver or a boat anchor during a 99-degree trail run? The results were surprising.

The good side of summer in the southern plains is what when it comes to training, all those long, bright and sunny days give you a tremendous nudge to get outside.

The bad side: Heat. Not desert southwest heat, but still the kind of temps (100s and up) that zaps you before you can really get any work done.

The fall race schedule is looming, and there are still a few Rocky Mountain peaks I’d like to bag before winter sets in. But I can’t achieve these goals doing what I did last summer.

At the time, I relied on pre-hydrating before my runs and hoping for the best as the miles went by.

It didn’t work. We had record-setting heat last summer, with somewhere around 40 to 50 100-degree days. My schedule precluded me from early morning or dusk runs. Similar heat and schedule issues are true now. What to do?

Various methods of in-training hydration are out there, and no, I’m not talking about park drinking fountains.

Some people carry water bottles. Others go with hydration belt packs. And then there’s the hydration backpack.

At first glance, none of these sounds appealing. Holding a bottle in my hand is a no-go, even with a bottle grip device. The belt sounds intriguing, provided the gear doesn’t get on my nerves. The backpack, even a small one, makes me worry about comfort and weight.

But I have to do something. I can’t just keep cashing it in short of my training goals and expect to make any sort of progress.

This week, I tried one of the three listed here: a lightweight, bare-bones hydration backpack made by CamelBak.

The pack itself is a stripped down version of other hydration packs made by CamelBak. The pack is big enough for a 1.5 liter water bladder and little else. There is a small, zippered pocket where you could stash your keys and a phone, or maybe a couple of packages of Gu. But that’s it. There’s a chest strap for stability, but no hip belt.

It’s tailor-made for biking and ultralight hiking, but running?

PROS

It’s light. Since there’s almost nothing to it, most of the weight is going to be from the water, and you don’t have to fill the entire bladder of weight is a major concern. There was no discomfort in wearing it during a 3-mile trail run on, at times, technical terrain. The pack was remarkably stable, too. I didn’t feel it shifting around too much at all. Getting a quick sip via the bite valve was fine whether I was stopped or on the move. And it served its purpose. Staying hydrated as I ran improved my performance considerably. I could have run much, much further that night, despite the 99-degree temperature.

CONS

The sloshing. Over time, I wonder if the imbalances caused by shifting water would have affected my run. But in the short-term, the noise was just annoying. But really, that was about the only negative I found. If the run were really long, I’m sure chafing would be an issues where the shoulder straps are. But short of that, there was no issue.

Thanks to a pretty great Twitter friend, @DavidECreech, there is a solution to the sloshing problem. He suggested that after filling it, turn it upside-down, then suck all the air out of the bladder. This should eliminate that water movement. I’ll definitely try that.

OVERALL

Aside from breaking down and buying a waist pack with water bottles, I think this is a winner for me. Anytime I can extend my training time and mileage (not to mention adding in a little hot weather safety), I’ve got to take advantage of that.

What method of hydration do you prefer? How do you stay hydrated on your runs, hikes and bike rides? Let me know here!

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088